Digital material could be lost!

Online media all a-Twitter as Google president warns of digital “Dark Age”.

Google’s vice-president Vint Cerf warns that a whole century of digital material could be lost.

Google's Vint Cerf
Google’s Vint Cerf

If, like me, you keep your most precious memories digitally filed away then prepare for a shock. As digital technology moves on, old formats of documents that we’ve created may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed. This means that:

  • Cherished photographs
  • Correspondence
  • Videos
  • Social interactions on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.
  • Manuscripts
  • Music
  • Medical records
  • Accounts

and everything else we store online may one day be lost to history as digital technology evolves.

Going the way of all things?
Going the way of all things?

The online world responds The online is ablaze with chatter, with some Twitter account holders suggesting we now print everything, while others discuss the implications this has for the print and music industry. Hundreds of articles have appeared on Google+ discussing Vert’s claims, with some arguing that despite these fear stories the ability for clever code writers to write conversion tools for old files won’t go away.  Others argue that while format obsolescence is certainly a problem, it is neither significant nor pressing for most digital resources. To print or not to print? As the online world tries to go paper free it is ironic to consider that hard copy may now be the best way to conserve information.

The new future
The new future?

Consider this: It is still possible to read records dating back 5,000 years ago that were imprinted onto clay tablets by Sumerian merchants eager to take stock of their goods. It is indeed a sobering thought to think that digital records created 20 years ago may be unreadable.

5,000 years old and still readable
5,000 years old and still readable

Unless a way is found to record the way we store information now, then future historians will find a digital black hole where the early 21st century used to be – blogs, tweets, pictures and videos, official documents such as court rulings and emails will be lost forever because the programs needed to view them will become defunct. Perhaps those Sumerian scribes have a point – if it’s important to you, make a hard copy while you still can.

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Digital Dark Age

Google’s Vint Cerf warns of digital ‘Dark Age’

“Father of the Internet” warns of ‘forgotten century’ with email and photos particularly at risk.

Google vice-president Professor Vinton Cerf
Google vice-president Professor Vinton Cerf

Digital material including key historical documents could be lost forever because programs to view them will become defunct, says Vint Cerf.

Remember this?
Remember this?

“If there are photos you really care about – print them out!”

In a speech at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in San Jose, California, Vint said:

“When you think about the quantity of documentation from our daily lives that is captured in digital form, like our interactions by email, people’s tweets, and all of the world wide web, it’s clear that we stand to lose an awful lot of our history,”.

The problem with digital technology

The problem seems to be that the hardware and software that we currently use to store digital information will become obsolete as technology evolves. As an example of this we might look at the way that the floppy disc gave way to memory sticks. All those files we saved in a digital format to ensure their long-term survival will be lost as the programs and hardware needed to make sense of the files continually fall out of use resulting in digital black hole.

 The Solution

Some institutions are already taking the situation very seriously.

America’s Library of Congress is to create a digital archive of Twitter as a historical record, whilst in Britain the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC) has been working to archive websites for future generations since 2004.

But what if the software is no longer available to open these files?

Cerf called for the development of “digital vellum” to preserve old software and hardware so that out-of-date files could be recovered no matter how old they are. Meanwhile Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are taking digital snapshots of computer hard drives running different software programs which can then be uploaded to a computer that reads the otherwise defunct files.

It’s an ironic twist that social media declaimers, the technologically challenged and those otherwise living off the grid have been maintaining all along – it turns out that books and old-fashioned printed photos may be the best way of preserving information after all.

Check back soon for more details – but don’t wait too long, you may not be able to open me!

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This year’s AGM will be held on the afternoon of Saturday 14th March between 2pm and 5pm.

The meeting will take place in the club’s Ferret room.


Items up for discussion will include:

  • A review of the NBC’s financial standings.
  • The proposal for the inclusion of a new learner’s class.
  • The proposal to apply for a drinks and entertainments licence.
  • An overhaul of club fees.
  • The proposed initiative to have Contract Bridge introduced to the school curriculum
  • Approval of the final draft of a letter to be sent to the Foreign Secretary, following the last round of amendments and revisions, regarding prisoners of conscience held overseas in foreign prisons for the crime of playing bridge in countries where the game is forbidden.
  • First draft of a letter to the British ‘pop’ act Radiohead, inviting them round for a quick game next time they tour NZ (singer Thom Yorke is a keen player, apparently).
  • The proposal, by Geoff, that we add a beach towel to our range of club fund-raising collectables and souvenirs.
  • The club’s response to the controversial change of rules on a national level that the score per overtrick can only be doubled if the player to the right of the declarer can successfully imitate the call of a moose in mating season before they score the overtricks above the line at the same rate as for bid tricks – i.e. 20 per trick if a minor suit was trumps; 30 per trick in a major suit or no trumps, no points per trick if the imitation is considered weak or poorly executed.
  • Any other business.

Members with any other business are advised to bring them to the attention of the club secretary before the end of February.

Attendance is compulsory as laid out in the terms and conditions of club membership.

Can’t make it?

Apologies to Claire before March 10th please.

Tea and nibbles will be provided by Doris who requests that attendees provide their own paper plates following the incident last year when several items of the club’s crockery was broken following a display of high spirits regarding our success in the Auckland bi-annual Bridge and Yodelling tournament.

See you there!


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It’s game set and match for club pair!

Club members will want to share in the celebrations as NBC regulars Daphne and Stuart tie the knot this weekend.

As many of you will know, Daphne and Stuart met here at Newbies Bridge Club five years ago, joining the club as beginners to the game. They passed through the learners classes together and soon found themselves face to face in the

The Happy Couple!
The Happy Couple!

intermediate classes, often as opponents. But romance soon blossomed and it didn’t take long for the love struck pair up to form one of the club’s most formidable teams, recently taking the NBC to third place in the recent all Auckland Contract Bridge tournament.

Following their success at last year’s tournament Stuart popped the     question to a delighted Daphne who replied: “Yes!”

“It was when we won fifteen rubbers in a row I knew he was the one for me – it’s like we’re connected on a higher level”, she gushed. This was only the first surprise Stuart had planned. Before she knew it, Stuart had whipped her off to the World Bridge Championships in Las Vegas, where the doting couple came in a very creditable 23rd out of 700 entrants.

“It was magical”, beamed Daphne. “We wanted to keep things proper, so we had separate suites, but we spent every moment together. Stuart’s a proper gentleman, and he bought me a this lovely engagement ring along the Sunset Strip!”. For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, the stones are set in a breathtaking arrangement of (what else?) hearts, clubs, spades and diamonds across a band of gold.

“She’s trumped my heart”, said Stuart, simply, “and she’s the only queen I want to hold in my hand”.

Returning to Auckland the couple soon set a date for the nuptials

The wedding takes place at St. Holyname church this Saturday afternoon with the reception to be held here at the NBC bar.

Club members and guests are invited to join the happy couple at 3 o’clock. Drinks and nibbles will be provided. Daphne and Stuart have asked that they don’t receive wedding gifts but that members may make a donation to the Disabled Bridge Players Association, a charity set up to support Bridge players and their families injured in the course of the game.

See you there!


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